COLUMN: Lilley – Why are Canadians rejecting unions?

- August 30th, 2013

Labour Day: No reason to celebrate

by Brian Lilley

Labour Day used to tout work of unions, but they’re less relevant now.

This weekend, in cities and towns across the country, thousands of Canadians will march in Labour Day parades while most of us simply enjoy the day off.

Those at the parades will hear from union leaders about all the wonderful things unions do for Canada’s workers. Here’s a question: Is that really true anymore?

Most Canadians work in non-union workplaces and for the most part that’s by choice. Unions once represented a much larger share of the Canadian workforce but now, according to Statistics Canada, just 31.5% of Canadians belong to unions and most of those are government workers.

For Canadians working in the private sector union membership sits below 15% — for government workers, more than 70% are unionized.

It’s not like anyone is stopping workers from organizing. Take a look at labour laws across the country — both federally and provincially, you’ll see those laws favour unions.

So, why, despite the claims that a joining a union is the path to prosperity, do most Canadian workers say no?

Because unions aren’t for the workers anymore, they’re for the union bosses.

My father worked his whole life in a union and retired a proud union man.

The outfit he belonged to has faced some tough questions lately over outrageous salaries for the top executives, cushy jobs for family members and precious little for the membership. In fact, it sounds to me like they’ve become the people they were fighting against.

His union is not alone.

The Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union, one of the unions I belonged to in the past, represents several thousand workers in Alberta’s oil patch but that hasn’t stopped CEP President Dave Coles from campaigning against projects that would support his members.

Coles has spoken out against several pipeline projects that would actually allow Alberta’s oil to reach world markets. He once said he was against the Keystone XL Pipeline to transport oil from Alberta to Texas because the refining jobs would go to Americans, but he’s since campaigned against and funded opposition to other projects that would send that same oil to Canadian refineries.

This weekend CEP will merge with Canada’s largest private sector union, the Canadian Auto Workers, to form a new organization called Unifor.

A reading of their constitution shows this is not about just helping improve the workplace or get a better deal for workers. It’s about politics.

“Our goal is transformative. To reassert common interest over private interest,” article 2 of the union constitution reads. “Our goal is to change our workplaces and our world. Our vision is compelling. It is to fundamentally change the economy, with equality and social justice, restore and strengthen our democracy and achieve an environmentally sustainable future.”

Essentially, if you are a member of this union you will be supporting socialist politics regardless of what your own views might be.

Earlier this year it was people like Coles and other union leaders who led a very expensive fight, using the money collected from union members, to fight a bill in Parliament that would have forced them to be open about how dues money is spent.

As labour leaders parade this weekend and pat themselves on the back, maybe they might want to consider why so many Canadians reject the idea of joining their ranks. It’s because they’ve become the very people they claim to be fighting, soaking up money from the working masses to pad their own wallets and fund political campaigns that follow their own whims.

Categories: Politics

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